Reversing desertification as a spatial resonance problem Academic Article uri icon


  • An important environmental application of pattern control by periodic spatial forcing is the restoration of vegetation patterns in water-limited ecosystems that went through desertification. Vegetation restoration is often based on periodic landscape modulations that intercept overland water flow and form favorable conditions for vegetation growth. Viewing this method as a spatial resonance problem, we show that plain realizations of this method, assuming a complete vegetation response to the imposed modulation pattern, suffer from poor resilience to rainfall variability. By contrast, less intuitive realizations, based on the inherent spatial modes of vegetation growth and involving partial vegetation implantation, can be highly resilient and equally productive. We derive these results using two complementary models, a realistic vegetation model, and a simple pattern formation model that lends itself to mathematical analysis and highlights the universal aspects of the behaviors found with the vegetation model. We focus on reversing desertification as an outstanding environmental problem, but the main conclusions hold for any spatially forced system near the onset of a finite-wave-number instability that is subjected to noisy conditions.

publication date

  • January 5, 2015